So. This was going to be my first go at a “perplexionary” video. I picked my passage (1 Corinthians 8), I set up my camera, I arranged my shot. I spent about half an hour filming, then plugged the camera into my laptop and downloaded the footage.
A symptom of being something like a digital native (and a Mac user) is that when I put things into my computer, I expect to have a pretty clear and obvious idea of what to do with them to make them work. Alas, not so this time.
I downloaded the footage, but couldn’t play it. “Ah,” I thought, “I must need to install some software.” Sure enough, a CD-ROM came with the camera. I slipped it into my laptop, but nothing started automatically, so I opened the file. Nothing I clicked on would work. Never mind that I have yet to look at the manual.
I’m sure I’ll decipher this technology after I spend some quality time playing with it, but that’s not quality time I had this week (I was too busy reading Derrida). So: no video.
In fact, no perplexionary, because as I was filming myself, I realized something: I’m really bad at filming myself.
Some of it’s my fault. I decided I could speak extemporaneously, since I’ve seen other vloggers/vidcasters do it. The thing is, extemporaneous isn’t really my style. I teach extemporaneously, sure, but pretty much every speech I’ve made over the past decade has been completely written out.
As it turns out, looking at a video camera feels more like making a speech. I had images of Ian Morgan Cron-esque vid-nuggets of wisdom, but I ended up with dozens of “ums” and a whole lotta time staring silently at the little digital image of myself.
Editing takes care of much of that, but I never got a chance to edit: technical difficulties.
This got me thinking, though. One of the criticisms I often hear about young Christians (e.g. me) is that we have difficulty articulating out faith/beliefs. This may have been said in connection with the Barna Group research, which is heavily interview-based.
There may be some truth to this typification. Or I could be a somewhat awkward introvert made nervous by the pressure and presence of a camera. Or, you know, maybe both.
I wonder what could be done to make young Christians more articulate about belief?
Education is key—if I’m uncertain about something, if I don’t feel I have a solid grounding to articulate and defend it, then I’ll probably avoid talking about it. If I don’t know the details and scaffolding of my faith tradition, how can I ever expect to explain it to someone else?
Practice is also vitally important—Practice makes perfect, but where do we practice? I attended Christian schools. I went to youth group. I was fed information—information that I didn’t have to critically engage until years later. I passed quizzes. I played the right role and was a great listener. I never needed to articulate anything. Even talking to the consistory (and, later the bishop) in preparation for profession of faith/confirmation didn’t require a great deal of thoughtful articulation.
One January in undergrad, when I was on an off-campus Interim trip in New England, my group attended a Unitarian Universalist church. We ended up attending on “Credo Sunday,” when a group of (14- and 15-year-old) teens planned the service and shared their credo statements, their personal statements of belief.
Now, there’s plenty about the UUA that I disagree with, and I admit it also felt a bit odd to sing Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game” in a worship environment (or to pass the offering plate to BNL’s “If I Had $1,000,000” ), but I don’t think I’ve ever heard from such an articulate group of young teenagers. And they didn’t recite received information—one of the young women announced that after careful consideration, she would be leaving the UUA church for a UCC church in town. By encouraging and facilitating the care and preparation that went into those credo statements (and all the others; this is a denomination-wide practice), I think the UUA is doing something really, really, (really) great.
I hope I’ll get better at and more comfortable with articulating my beliefs. I also hope I’ll get better at and more comfortable with using a camera. And I hope I’ll be able to help others with this along the way.
Are you comfortable articulating your faith? Why or why not, in your opinion? What do you think we could be doing to help young people become more readily articulate about beliefs?